The Empire Strikes Back!

Within 48 hours of returning from his forced isolation in the medical wing of OSP, Sean was transferred out to SOCF in Lucasville. Any mail sent to Sean in the last few days is going to be coming back to you. Please re-send it to his new address:

Sean Swain
P. O. Box 45699
1724 St. Rt. 728
Lucasville, Ohio 45699

Sean called this morning with some information, which we’ve reconstructed here as well as possible. We won’t be getting more solid word from Sean until next week, because they’re holding his property until at least Monday. He’s been wearing the same socks and underwear since they transferred him on Tuesday.

Sean is no longer on hunger strike, he’s taking his pills, he had to to get out of the medical wing and back to general population Sunday night.If he wouldn’t have, he thinks they would have transferred him directly from the medical wing, and none of his outside supporters would have gotten any information about where he went or how to find him.

So, instead they transferred him and the rest of 4A, did a rush job, and gave Sean “special treatment” like failing to give him the same clothes as the other prisoners, putting him in a cell with gaps in the window so freezing wind was whistling in all night, and then turning off the heater when he moved his mattress to lie next to it.

Sean believes this transfer was scheduled at the last minute, after he got off what was supposed to be a private phone call with his lawyer, that the transfer is a form of retaliation against him, the others were transferred as well just to cover for themselves. Sean thinks this because Warden Forshey admitted it to him, and because when he complained about his cell conditions and lack of clothes to a major at SOCF, the major was genial until he glanced at the name plate on Sean’s cell door. Then he said “oh you’re Swain” and turned into a total asshole.

There’s a lot more detail, but we’ll leave that for Sean to recount, because he’ll surely make it better reading.

The long and the short of it is, they’ve moved Sean to the prison he most associates with the attempted murder of Little Rock Reed and the Lucasville Uprising. It is an unsafe and less stable and professional place than OSP, when Sean was transferred to Level 4B after leaving the ManCI hole, he signed a waiver allowing the “undue hardship” the supermax, rather than SOCF. Many prisoners do this, (as recounted in this zine by Jason Robb) because SOCF is notorious for being a hard place to do your time.

Some context…

ALL the 4A prisoners were, or will be moved out of OSP. We got this information from BlackJack, who called us on Wednesday, when the mass transfer happened. BlackJack and four other guys are the only 4A people left at OSP, and they’ve been told they’ll be going to Toledo soon. They’ve been told this move is to make room for a bunch of new 4B guys coming in.

What do these numbers mean?

ODRC has a security level system. Level 5 is the highest level “administrative maximum”. 4B is one step down, and 4A is a step below that, 4 is considered maximum security. Before the current transfers, OSP held  296 level 4’s and 122 level 5’s. SOCF, also known as Lucasville, held 3 level 5’s, 1106 level 4s, and 91 level 3’s. Sean’s security level was raised from 2 to 4B when fuckweasels at MANCI they framed him for leading the army of the 12 monkeys. When his level was lowered from 4B to 4A he gained access to contact visits and some additional JPay services, including, supposedly video visitation.

OSP v Lucasville, some history. In 1993 there was an 11 day standoff and occupation of a whole cell block at SOCF. Known as the Lucasville Uprising this event was the blackest mark on the Ohio prison system’s history, and the longest prison uprising that involved loss of life in US history. After the uprising, the ODRC got funding to build a supermax prison outside of Youngstown. That’s the origin of OSP.

It just so happens that a couple of radical historian labor lawyers and old school quaker activists were also living outside of Youngstown, Ohio. When OSP opened, the American Friend’s Service Committee asked Staughton and Alice Lynd to try and shut it down. They haven’t succeeded yet, but they have made quite a dent in it. Alice sued the prison, with help from a handful or prisoners, and has been doing independent oversight ever since. The lawsuit greatly improved conditions at OSP, and set a supreme court precedent forcing state prison systems to have some kind of due process for placing prisoners at supermax. ODRC was no longer able to fill their new state of the art prison by arbitrarily putting whoever they felt like in it.

In fact, it was established that being at the supermax is an “undue burden” which only the 120 or so people with RIB infractions heavy enough to place them on level 5 can be forced to endure. The 300 level 4 prisoners have to sign a waiver of their rights to go to OSP. So, why are there 300 level 4 prisoners at OSP, and how are they getting “a bunch” more 4B sent there? Well, they set the waiver up as a question. When someone gets an infraction and raises their security level to 4, they have to sign a piece of paper, which gives them two options with check boxes: OSP, or SOCF.

Many people choose OSP, even though it’s a supermax, because SOCF is notorious for being a much harder place to do your time. Isolated in the very southern tip of Ohio, built in the early 70’s, and run by racist back-country guards, SOCF is dirty, unstable, and hard to live in. OSP has air conditioning, a more professional staff, and modern clean facilities. They even started giving everyone at OSP a free television, because they found that televisions kept folks quiet. Jason Robb has written an interesting zine about how if people just stopped to choosing OSP on that form, it would only be able to house the 100 or so level 5 guys like him. Most of the facility would be empty, and the ODRC would probably be forced to close it. So, in a way, it’s the horribleness and fear of SOCF that keeps Ohio’s supermax open.

Why is this important?

Well, Gary Mohr, the current director of the The Ohio Department of Retribution and Corruption has been promising to let out non-violent drug offenders to reduce the incarceration rate. This is good PR for both right wingers who wanna reduce state budgets and left wingers who want fewer people in prison, especially for petty drug crimes. Unfortunately, it’s just PR spin, because in actuality the number of people held in Ohio prisons continues to  rise. This influx of 4B guys at OSP means they are also systematically increasing the security levels and putting more people in worse and worse conditions. If you’ve promised to release low level offenders, and you make money based on number of people locked up, then it’s just self interest to raise the security level of low level prisoners.

If that’s not convincing enough explanation, how about this: Gary Mohr is the former CEO of Corrections Corporation of America, a huge corporation that takes tax payer money to run prisons more cheaply than the state. How that swindle works is sorta the same as charter schools. They choose the prisoners they wanna house, and then cut all the corners. It’s a nasty and obvious enough scam that even liberal groups like the ACLU have been paying attention. CCA wants the lowest maintenance prisoners because it takes less work to keep a good record. So moving any potential trouble maker to higher security levels, and packing them in the supermax, takes them out of the pool of prisoners eligible to be housed at CCA’s private prisons, so Mohr is helping CCA cover their scam. Meanwhile, he’s telling the public that he’s going to release and decarcerate this cash flow. He’s a liar. It’s a swindle. Fuck the ODRC.

It also means that guys on 4A are going from a modern facility that, because it’s classified as a supermax and is legally considered an “undue hardship” is held to great scrutiny and high standards to SOCF in Lucasville, Ohio’s most notoriously horrific and violently unstable institution. Meanwhile, the Adult Parole Authority continues to flop low risk “old law” prisoners because that’s how they get paid. It doesn’t take a lot of scratching to get below the surface of the ODRC and see how ugly, inept and corrupt this institution is.